Cone of Power

a gif of a spinning cone

A cone is a shape that combines two shapes. Viewed from above, a cone is a perfect circle, a continuous set of concentric circles imploding to an apex. Viewed from the side, a cone is a triangle: a polygon formed by the smallest number of points possible in a given two-dimensional plane. By contrast, a circle is formed from an infinite collection of points. A single point fewer than infinity would render the circular shape into a high-pointed polygon and no longer in fact a circle. Triangles and circles then form two ends of a spectrum when visualizing the world through Euclidean geometry. Triangles become the most basic, most real component of this visual language; circles the most virtual.

Computer graphics, like those in 3D modeling and computer games, consist mostly of triangles. Other shapes, such as squares and octagons, are made through the combination of smaller triangles. In graphical renderings, like those used to design, pitch, and sell architectural builds, there are no circles. Even if the rendering engine can plot a perfect circle, your computer monitor can render it through its grid of pixels. Instead, what may appear to be a circle is a set of thousands of triangles so close together that they give the illusion of a circle. But the circle you think you are seeing isn't there. Perhaps squint a little harder.

Circles and triangles are two of the most important symbols in ritual magick, and occult and magical religions through time and across cultures. The circle embodies renewal, return, rebirth. The Ouroboros. The pure vertex-less edge is the unbreakable passage of time and eternal return. Triangles are symbols of creation. In Wicca, the triangle is the symbol of the mother. Triangles, bound to the number three, are the start of things. They arise out of the marriage of stasis (a single point) to tension (the duality of two points). Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

The magickal cone of power ritual is used to channel the powers of a group or coven on a single task. By collecting the endless recursion of the circle and forcing it up through the apex at the other end of a triangle, the power of the group is concentrated through the cone out into the universe. Historical covens can and have directed this energy at specific focal points - an end goal, a set location, a future to be birthed.

The conical connection between a single focal point of power and a base of communal collective is found throughout political science. Parliamentary democracy functions when a set of elected members are each tasked to collect and arbitrate the needs of their constituents. The process works in the same way as a mathematical convolution matrix, that averages the information from a region and compresses it.

pyramid of capitalist society

Politics itself is a performative activity that looks to channel energy into action. By performative, I mean it must be done, not that it is staged. To perform politics is to take the raw energies of need, unrest and urgency and to actualize around a focal point; a latent point of change. It bounds formless energies into a circular field of activity around a central tension that must be addressed. That central tension calcifies as it rises up the societal apparatus. Every step towards the intended change transmutes the original driving energy into more solid forms: laws, social programmes, architecture and technologies.

In Postscript on the Societies of Control, Deleuze (referencing Foucault) terms state and community institutions (prison, hospital, factory, school, family) as "environments of enclosure". Participating in society, in disciplinary societies, brings you inside closed environments. The logic of the disciplinary society is triangular - the singular authority sits at the top above multitudes of subsets each dominating those below. Each institution requires the subjected individual to start a new:

In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything

The society of control that Deleuze outlines follows instead the endless logic of the circle, the serpent; continued assessment and ongoing learning.

Perhaps the cone of power has not changed much at all. If it has gone from Foucault's triangular disciplinary enclose to Deleuze's endless circle of control, perhaps it has just fallen over. Either way, we are still inside the uneven conical topology of capitalism, except on its side is more disorientating.